Indy 500 Getting Competition, but Compromise Still Possible

Any doubts that Championship Auto Racing Teams might run an alternative race opposite the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend were erased Wednesday when Andrew Craig, CART president and CEO, announced that ticket applications were being taken for a race at Michigan International Speedway.

"We would still hope that a compromise could be found with the Indy Racing League so that our drivers could compete in the Indy 500, but as time goes on it becomes more apparent that it isn't going to happen," Craig said. "We did not want to announce anything about the venue or the TV package until we have everything under control.

"A compromise would certainly be in the best interests of the sport, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and racing fans, but to have a compromise, both sides must give a little. However, we are not prepared to just walk away. Our teams have worked too hard, too long to get where we are. It is our teams that have made the sport what it is today . . . and we are determined not to walk away from that and return to the narrow world of the IRL."

Jack Long, executive director and CEO of the IRL, said compromise was probably out of the question.

"We have heard reports that we are negotiating with CART, but nothing could be farther from the truth," Long said. "We are not in discussion with CART over any issue. We are moving ahead with our own plans."

Entries for the first IRL race, Jan. 27 at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., are being mailed today.

The crux of the dispute is the IRL's decision to reserve 25 of the 33 starting positions in the Indy 500 for teams that participate in the first two IRL races, at Orlando and March 26 at Phoenix.

"We find the Indy 500 qualifying procedure repugnant," Craig said. "As far as our teams running at Orlando, that is up to them. They are free to race there, but if one of the [25] franchise owners race in an IRL event, they will be dropped from our board of directors. We understand that several teams may run both series, and they are free to do so, but we do not want someone on our board who is competing for a rival organization."

Currently, all 25 franchise holders are members of the CART board.

Unlike the Indy 500, which takes nearly a month to unfold, the Michigan alternative will be only one weekend, as are all other Indy car races.

"There is no reason to think the Michigan race will not gain as much exposure for our sponsors as the Indy 500," Craig said. "There is nothing sacrosanct about the Indy 500. We will run on the same day and we expect our fans to be at the real race."

Long pointed out that the process for Indy qualifying will be even longer this year.

"The first day of qualifying for next year's Indy 500 will be at Orlando," he said.

Motor Racing Notes

STOCK CARS--Linda Steinbeck, widow of the late Dick Steinbeck, race promoter at Orange Show Speedway, and her family will continue to operate stock car racing for the next three years at the quarter-mile oval in San Bernardino. The 1995 season will close Saturday night with the second of a three-race Southern California Pro Stock Championship series. Steve Bush of National City won the opening race at Cajon Speedway. The series will end Nov. 4 at Blythe Speedway. . . . Blythe will hold its final points race for hobby stocks Saturday night. . . . The Lake Perris Fairgrounds destruction derby, with $1,000 to the last surviving car, is Sunday.

SPRINT CARS--Ron Shuman and Lealand McSpadden continue their battle for the Sprint Car Racing Assn. championship Saturday night at Ventura Raceway. McSpadden won two races last weekend to close in on Shuman. Also on the program will be IMCA sprint cars and dwarf cars.

SPORTS CARS--David Pook of Long Beach and Michael Lewis of San Diego were winners in the Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline Runoffs last week at the Mid-Ohio race course. Pook, son of Long Beach Grand Prix founder Chris Pook, won the Formula Continental race in a Van Dieman. He averaged 92.061 m.p.h. around the 2.4-mile road circuit. Lewis won the GT-1 race and also finished second in GT-3, driving a Mazda RX7. . . . Tim Moser of Ventura was named rookie of the year in the Skip Barber Dodge series.

MOTORCYCLES--Three Southern California riders from the British Speedway League have automatically qualified for next year's World Grand Prix series by finishing in the top eight in the recent championship. Sam Ermolenko of Cypress was third, Greg Hancock of Costa Mesa fourth and Billy Hamill of Monrovia fifth. Hancock, after winning the U.S. championship at Costa Mesa, flew to London and won the final round of the Grand Prix. Hamill won a round in Austria.

POWERBOATS--Tom Bonacci of Brea, riding a Sea-Doo, won the pro sport division of the Skat-Track World Finals for jet boats last Sunday at Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Minoru Kanamori of Japan, on a Kawasaki, swept the pro runabout 785 class by winning all three heats. Brent Flambures of Riverside finished third, with national champion Victor Sheldon of Vista a disappointing ninth.

MISCELLANY--Willow Springs Raceway will celebrate its 42nd birthday this weekend with a full schedule of Vintage Auto Racing Assn. machines on the newly paved track. The pre-1967 parade of cars will feature Formula 5000 Lola, Chevron, Eagle and Lotus cars. . . . Kenny Bernstein's Budweiser King/Quaker State top fuel dragster that broke the 300 m.p.h. barrier in 1992 will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum at Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave., starting today.

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